5 Phrases to Avoid Saying to Someone With Depression


One of the hardest parts of living with a mental illness is the lack of understanding among peers. It’s not that people don’t want to help their loved one, it’s often that they are unsure how. They try to make it right by saying all of the wrong things. But how should one expect their family and friends to be better educated on this topic when one fails to explain how to help? Change starts with informing.

Here are five phrases you should never say to someone you love struggling with depression:

1. “It’s all in your head.”

Depression is a real illness. Telling someone the side effects they are feeling do not really exist devalues their struggle. You have no idea what they are going through on a daily basis, so please don’t try to assume and mistakenly downplay their hurt.

2. “Stop thinking like that.”

If they could, they would have by now. They are constantly trying to release the dark thoughts occupying their mind. Their mental illness may be making it hard to do so. Depression is a switch we often can’t just “shut off,” as much as we hope and pray we could. You can’t ask a cut to stop bleeding and expect immediate results. Why is depression any different?

3. “Be positive.”

This one is said so effortlessly. It’s like telling someone with asthma to breathe smoothly through clouds of smoke. Depression weighs one down, making it almost impossible to maintain a positive attitude. They try so hard to see the good, but depression leaves a constant reminder of the bad. Optimism is far from easy for them.

4. “Some people have it so much worse.”

It’s belittling to say this. Just because someone appears to be healthier than a patient with a physical illness, doesn’t mean they aren’t battling a tough internal struggle. We shouldn’t compare one person’s pain to another’s. Making theirs seem insignificant will only increase the hurt.

5. “I know how you feel.”

It’s hard to know exactly how someone is feeling. Just listen when they need someone to vent to. Take their condition seriously, and respond sympathetically. Assure them that although you may not entirely understand, they don’t have to go through this alone.

A version of this post appeared on The Odyssey.

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Thinkstock photo via Elliskaboo.


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